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Danish Coats of Arms

Last modified: 2021-08-25 by christopher oehler
Keywords: denmark | coat of arms |
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National Coat of Arms

[National coat of arms]  from Danish Embassy in Washington

There are two versions of the Danish coat of arms, the small one now called the National Coat of Arms and the large one now called the Royal Coat of Arms. The two coats of arms are used by the royal house and state authorities as a national symbol denoting sovereignty. The National Arms are in principle the coat of arms known from the time of the Valdemars, three lions surrounded by hearts. The Royal Arms with quarterings in one shield held by savages in a pavilion and surrounded by collars of orders of chivalry, has been altered on various occasions, most recently by a royal decree in 1972. In 1959 it was decided that the Royal Arms are used by the monarch, the royal house and the court, and by the Life Guards, while other authorities are to use the National Arms. The Danish coat of arms are ensigned by a crown which was originally open, but since 1624 has been reproduced with arches and an orb with a cross above. The crown symbolises both the royal and national authority. With reproductions of the national arms in seals and on coins, and in connection with the exercise of authority, rights of succession are asserted and sovereignty of the monarch and the state as well. The national arms and the crown are legally protected against misuse. When the designation is indicated, a purveyor to the Royal Court is allowed to use the crown and a Royal Court purveyor the royal coat of arms or the crown alone.
Nils G. Bartholdy, 10 May 2003

The "hearts" have officially been called "søblade" in Denmark for several decades. Indeed, in Friesland we call them water lily leaves, though on our lion arms they've actually been replaced by small golden blocks.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 1 August 2007

Through the ages they have very often been interpreted as hearts in Denmark too, and even if the present official view is that they were originally this kind of leaves and therefore should be so now, I think it is still not 100 % settled that it really was leaves originally.
Elias Grandqvist, 1 August 2007

Royal Coat of Arms

[Royal coat of arms]  from Héraldique européenne

The Royal coat of arms looks rather modern and minimalist; I would put a little question mark on the so called "Scandinavian cross" in the center. I'm more used to a center cross like the one on this image (from

The contents of the monarch's coat of arms have varied over the years (see Héraldique européenne for details). The escutcheon originally contained quarterings for areas over which the king actually reigned at various periods or to which he laid claim. In the Middle Ages the king's younger sons bore one or two lions to denote their status as vassals. The two Slesvig lions are known from 1245 and in 1460 became part of the king's coat of arms together with the Holstein nettle leaf, which was originally the family coat of arms of the Schauenburgers. In the 13th century, the Counts of Halland, one of the bastard lines of the royal family, bore a lion above a number of hearts. In 1449 Christian I added a lion surmounting nine hearts to his coat of arms for the title of "the Goths", presumably as part of his efforts to dominate Sweden where the patriotic myth of the Swedes as the descendants of the victorious Goths greatly contributed to a sense of national understanding. In 1440, the dragon-like wyvern representing the title of "the Wends" was added; it can symbolise heathendom and thus refer to the earlier victory over the heathen Wends. The two Oldenborg bars were introduced by Christian I, and in the king's coat of arms from the time of Frederik I we find the Delmenhorst cross. The swan of Stormarn with a coronet around its neck is known from 1476. The Dannebrog cross was incorporated into the king's coat of arms from the time of Erik VII of Pomerania, as were the axe-bearing lion of Norway and the Swedish coats of arms. The three crowns were actually the coat of arms of Sweden, but became a symbol of the Kalmar Union's three Scandinavian realms. After the break-up of the Union Christian III, from 1546, used the three crowns as arms of pretence, and in this way Danish-Norwegian kings betokened a political will also to rule Sweden. The use of the three crowns was opposed by Sweden, especially in the 16th century. Quarterings for Bavaria and Pomerania were found under the kings who hailed from those countries. The conquest of the Ditmarshes in 1559 was marked by a quartering with a horseman. From the 16th century Iceland was represented by a crowned stockfish, but from 1903 by a falcon. The ancient arms of the Faroe Islands, the ram, were from 1668 combined with that of the king, and the Greenlandic bear is known from 1665. In 1819 a horse's head was added for Lauenburg. Furthermore, the following arms have been used: the Agnus Dei of Gotland, the eagle of Oesel, the crown of Femern and the dragon of Bornholm. Buffalo horns, sometimes clad in ermine, with peacock feathers, was the royal crest from the end of the 13th century to the 1420s.
Nils G. Bartholdy, 10 May 2003

The Dannebrog cross was changed when Queen Margrethe ascended, from being inspired by the Order of Dannebrog to being inspired by the flag.
Ole Andersen, 10 May 2003

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